ICC to investigate 'human trafficking marketplace' in Libya

ICC to investigate 'human trafficking marketplace' in Libya
The International Criminal Court investigators will look into a 'marketplace' for human trafficking in Libya, the chief prosecutor said on Monday, following earlier reports of migrants being forced into slavery.
3 min read
Thousands of migrants have died attempting to cross into Europe from Libya [Getty]

Alleged crimes against migrants in Libya could soon be investigated by the the International Criminal Court, the chief prosecutor said on Monday, as more reports come out of the country being used as a "marketplace" for human trafficking emerge.

Evidence of crimes allegedly committed against migrants attempting to transit through Libya is being collected, Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council.

Thousands of vulnerable migrants - including women and children - are being held in detention centres across Libya where "crimes, including killings, rapes and torture, are alleged to be commonplace," she said.

Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer and ICC chief prosecutor since 2012, said she was "dismayed by credible accounts that Libya has become a marketplace for the trafficking of human beings".

The ICC prosecution is "carefully examining the feasibility of opening an investigation into migrant-related crimes in Libya" if these cases fall under the court's jurisdiction, she said.

Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi and its territory is controlled by two rival governments that are backed by rival militias.

Some militias have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group or are liked to al-Qaeda.

The chaos has been a boon for migrant smugglers and human traffickers who have turned Libya's coast into a key departure point to Europe.

Noting that Libya's overall security has "deteriorated significantly" since last year, Bensouda warned that migrant-smuggling could help organised crime and terror networks expand their hold in the North African country.

Last month, Italian prosecutor made extraordinary claims, accusing aid groups in Libya of working with brutal human traffickers that operate in the war-torn country.

"We have evidence that there are direct contacts between certain NGOs and people traffickers in Libya," Carmelo Zuccaro told Italy's La Stampa daily.

"We do not yet know if and how we could use this evidence in court, but we are quite certain about what we say; telephone calls from Libya to certain NGOs, lamps that illuminate the route to these organisations' boats, boats that suddenly turn off their transponders, are ascertained facts," he said.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontiers), SOS Mediterranee, Save the Children and Mobile Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) are some of the NGOs who have denied being in collusion with traffickers. 

The number of people leaving Libya to reach Europe is up nearly 50 percent this year compared with the opening months of 2016.

On Monday, UN agencies reported that 11 migrants died and nearly 200 were missing after two boats sank off the coast of Libya. 

Meanwhile, Bensouda said her office was closely following the offensive by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi after a video emerged showing the Libyan National Army allegedly committing serious crimes, such as summary executions of detainees.

Bensouda also urged Libyan authorities to arrest former security chief, al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, who she said is currently residing in Libya and is wanted for war crimes trial at the ICC.

A warrant for Khaled's arrest was unsealed in late April.